September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to discuss with your Primary Care Provider whether you or a loved one should be tested for prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men other than skin cancer. There will be over 180,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in the United States this year alone and over 26,000 men will die from this disease in 2016.
The prostate is a male reproductive gland located under the bladder which makes fluid that supports the sperm during a man’s reproductive years. Normally, urine travels from the bladder through the center of the prostate and out through the urethra. As a man ages, the prostate often grows and squeezes the urinary channel, making urination slower and more frequent. After discussion and examination by your provider, he or she may prescribe medications which can easily treat these urinary symptoms. In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a urologist, a specialist who has a variety of methods which can improve the condition.
Unlike the symptoms experienced from the typical growth of the prostate as a man ages, prostate cancer, in its early stages, usually has no symptoms. Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells within an organ which, if untreated, may spread throughout the body and cause other organs to fail and even result in death. Prostate cancer is more common in older men, in African American men and in men who have a family history of the disease. If you are concerned about prostate cancer or have one of these risk factors, you should discuss testing for the disease with your primary care provider. Testing typically consists of a prostate exam and a simple blood test called Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). If either of these tests are abnormal, your provider may refer you to a urologist who may advise a prostate ultrasound and biopsy to see if prostate cancer is present.
When detected in the early stages, when the tumor is still confined within the prostate gland, prostate cancer may be cured through a variety of methods including surgery, radiation, freezing or heating of the prostate. Sometimes, early cancers which are not felt to be aggressive or potentially harmful to the man, may not require immediate treatment. Instead, these mild cancers may be carefully monitored by the urologist through a process called Active Surveillance consisting of regular examinations and blood tests.
Unfortunately, once prostate cancer has spread outside of the prostate, it is more difficult to cure. A combination of treatments such as radiation, hormone shots and sometimes chemotherapy may be necessary to treat prostate cancer in its advanced stages.
The take-home message is that if you are concerned about prostate cancer, discuss your concerns with your primary care provider to determine if testing is appropriate for you or your loved one. For more information about prostate cancer, visit the American Cancer Society’s website at cancer.org.
Jeffrey Steinberg, MD, earned his medical degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA in 1986. He completed an internship and residency in surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, Boston, MA. Dr. Steinberg continued his training at Harvard Medical School, performing a urology residency and subsequently receiving a Master of Science in Health Care Management from the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Steinberg has been certified in robotic surgery since 2005. He founded the Boston Urological Society in 2005 and patented the first portable cystoscope.
Dr. Steinberg’s practice, Urology Specialists of Milford, LLC, is located at 54 Hopedale St., Hopedale, Massachusetts 01747. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Steinberg, visit his profile or call his office at 508-473-6333.